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(506) 223-1327         Published Friday, March 14, 2008, in Vol. 8, No. 53            E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
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Administration tries to grease skids for security bill
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The executive branch, which sets the legislative agenda during certain periods of the year, has given an omnibus security bill high priority.

The security bill, an amalgamation of about a half dozen existing bills became public Tuesday at a session before a legislative committee. A group headed by Vice President Laura Chinchilla drew up the legislation designed to end the nation's crime wave.

However, even before Casa Presidencial called up on lawmakers to act on the bill, some are expressing the need for extensive deliberation.

Among these is Luis Barrantes Castro, president of the legislative commission that will study the measure and all similar bills. He called it a megaproject and said that the commission he heads will need expert help to craft a final bill.

One aspect of the proposed legislation is to punish criminals for what would be considered misdemeanors in the United States. Among these are serial robberies of smaller items like cellular telephones. These crimes would be considered felonies elsewhere, but in Costa Rica they are hardly prosecuted.

Barrantes said Thursday that he was surprised that the head of the Corte Suprema de Justicia, Luis Paulino Mora had gone on record against upgrading such acts to delitos or felonies. Barantes noted that crime has touched every strata, including ex-presidents, ministers and legislative deputies.

For example, hijackers took the car of former president Luis Alberto Monge in Heredia and made him, a companion and a driver lay in the dirt.  Gunmen invaded the Rohrmoser home of former presidential candidate Ricardo Toledo last March 21, killed a maid and shot down a neighbor. They also broke the arm of his wife.

The Chinchilla proposal has suffered another setback in a local court even before it was outlined. A major part of the administration anti-crime package is the protection of victims and witnesses. But a lower courts already has thrown out a case
against a suspected robber because the victim declined to be identified in court for fear of retribution.

Rodrigo Arias Sánchez, the minister of the Presidencia and the brother to the president, was the person who said via a Casa Presidencial announcement that the legislature would be asked to act on the security measure. In addition to the bill crafted by the Chinchilla group, the legislature already has bills on immigration, weaponry, organized crime, a drug law update and a money laundering revision.

The immigration bill has been in the legislature since the first months of the Arias administration and seems no closer to passage. Lawmakers have been bogged down for two years by the free trade treaty with the United States, which is the administration's No. 1 priority.

During periods when the Costa Rican Constitution does not order the legislature or Asamblea Legislativa to meet, the executive branch has the option to call members into session and set the agenda of what measures will be considered.

Originally this was a plan for some type of emergency, but for years the executive branch has called lawmakers into session and established its own agenda as routine.

Nevertheless, there is no guarantee that the lawmakers will act swiftly on the measure, although Ms. Chinchilla said Thursday that she hoped they would.

The preface to the new security bill gave some startling statistics, even though crime data in Costa Rica are not very solid.

Robbery, for example, increased 748 percent between 1996 and 2006, and simple theft has increased 54 percent, said the bill. In addition the murder rate and the rate of violent robberies had doubled, said the bill, citing United Nations figures.

Óscar Arias stressed citizen security in his campaign that ended in victory in 2006. However, his administration has been concentrating on cleaning house in its own agencies.

Long-running 'Jacó cabin' rental scam ends in multiple arrests
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Last year some 18 Central Valley residents complained that they were defrauded by a man who took deposits for a Semana Santa vacation retreat but never delivered on the housing. The property never existed.

The scam picked up again this year, and agents registered at least one complaint. The main suspect was not hard to locate. He is a convicted rapist serving time in La Reforma prison in Alajuela. He spoke to prospective tenants via his cell phone, agents said.

There was no explanation by the Judicial Investigating Organization about why it took a year
 to make the key arrests. In addition to the prisoner, his wife was detained. She is 31, works in Aserrí and was in charge of putting ads for the so-called "Jacó cabin" in a general circulation Spanish-language newspaper, said agents.

Judicial agents identified the prisoner as Leonardo Castro, 34. His wife is Gladys Hidalgo, 31, agents said.

In addition, 11 persons were detained for investigation because they allowed would-be renters to make deposits into their bank accounts, agents said. One such accessory, a woman in Tibás, was not detained because she is confined to a hospital bed, said agents.  Agents said all the victims were Costa Ricans.

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Narcotraffickers' food plan
frustrated by police raids

By Elise Sonray
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

One by one. That's how agents pulled up 800,000 marijuana plants under the burning jungle sun in Talamanca, said the minister of security Thursday.

The native Costa Rican people of the area were caring for the plants in exchange for food given by narcotraffickers, according to the Fuerza Pública. “Rice and beans for marijuana” was how one spokesman put it. Native peoples also received pistols for 40 pounds of chopped marijuana, among other items, said the security ministry.  

Agents from the Policía de Control de Drogas, the Policía de Fronteras and the Unidad de Intervención Policial had to fly in helicopters to reach the high jungles of Cordillera Talamanca, said Fernando Berrocal Soto, minister of Gobernación, Policía y Seguridad Pública. There the officers stayed in the mountains for nearly two weeks hand pulling the meter-high plants out by the roots, said Berrocal.

The area is in southeast Costa Rica near the Panamá border.

At a press conference Thursday, the ministry showed a video of the operation. “I wanted to show that it is a very hard job,” said the minister. “They surely burned their backs with the important job they did.” Intelligence work for operations like these takes weeks or months, said Berrocal. He added that his administration now holds the record for eradicating marijuana plants. More than 3 million plants have been destroyed in 20 months, he said. Berrocal did not mention whether or not growth of the plant has gone up in recent years. “It is a dangerous drug,” he said, “because it is the initiation of stronger drugs.”

Officials did not say how many people depended on the food gained from the marijuana trade. They did say that for 50 pounds of marijuana the local people were given two packages of rice, four kilograms (8.8 pounds) of sugar, two bags of coffee, five bags of salt, three packages of noodles, soup, tuna fish and powdered milk. Harvesters could buy 500 bullets for 20 pounds of the drug, 24 flashlight batteries for 10 pounds, or two machetes for five pounds.

Now that 800,000 of the plants are destroyed, it may be difficult for the people in the area to eat, admitted a spokesman. The plants take about six months to grow, and were almost ready for harvest when agents destroyed them, said Jesus Ureña, a ministry spokesman. “There are many Christian organizations that leave food towards the bottom part of the mountain,” said Ureña, “but it is a very large and very serious problem.”

Police did not arrest anyone in the case, according to the ministry. “They are victims of narcotraffick,” said Ureña, referring to the native people who cared for the plants. Cordillera is not exactly a town. People live five to 10 miles away from each other, according to Ureña. The place where the marijuana grew was quite far away from the actual houses, said Ureña. The people intentionally grow it in places very difficult for the police to get to, he said. “We don't know if everyone participated or just one small part of the community. We can't presume,” he added.

The real narcotraffickers are from Barrio Central, San José and Limón, according to Ureña.

Expats in Panamá face
new immigration law

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The president of Panamá has decreed a new immigration law, but according to The Panamá News, most of the details are left up to regulations that have not been written yet.

The president, Martin Torrijos has two months where he could issued decrees, according to a legislative action. So he did so Feb. 28 near the end of that period.

The Panamá News said that the new immigration law decree included several new provisions that will affect the lives of foreigners living in Panama. However, it left most of the details — including the possibility of reviving controversial provisions that had been excised — to administrative regulations to be published later.

The biggest change in the law will be the creation of a Registro de Extranjeria, said the newspaper, adding:

"Every foreigner in Panamá will have to register. The information contained in the registry will be confidential except in the cases of tax or criminal investigations. Any change in the information required by the registry — exactly what these requirements are going to be is left to the administrative regulations, but one that is specified in the law is place of residence — will obligate the foreigner to inform the registry within 30 days."

Editor Eric Jackson was critical of the legislation because it will let fleeing felons live for five years in a third country and then come to Panamá to seek residency. They "will be able to apply for Panamanian residency or citizenship without his criminal activities in his country of origin being inquired into," he said.

Speaking of serial rapist, Jackson said: "It's really not these sorts of criminals that the government desires, however. What the politicians here, including President Torrijos and most of his predecessors, really want are people who stole millions of dollars bringing themselves and that money to Panamá. It used to be that there was also a rather open preference for drug lords, but due to U.S. pressures this is no longer the case, at least not openly."

Jackson posted a link to the text of the bill and a link to an English translation in this week's issue.

Many expat residents of Costa Rica have moved to Panamá or are at least considering that option. Jackson, himself, is sensitive to immigration issues because he is being sued by former Colorado and Costa Rican resident Mark Boswell, who is now in Panamá conducting business under the name of Rex Freeman. Boswell asserts that an article Jackson wrote contains slander and is defamatory. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for July.

The Sección de Fraudes of the Judicial Investigating Organization conducted a raid of Boswells' operation in Costa Rica last Oct. 30, but there have been no developments mentioned publicly.

Jackson questions why individuals who have criminal records can come in to Panamá and establish residency.

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Arts festival this year will have a strong Chinese emphasis
By Helen Thompson
of the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Chinese and Costa Rican culture will be the focus of this year's Festival Internacional de Las Artes, with a program that will see events happen throughout three cities. The program was announced Thursday.

Costa Rica's usually sparse cultural landscape will be full for 10 days in April, when all the major theaters of San José, Alajuela and Puntarenas hold shows by artists from around the globe.

This is the first time that the long-running festival, which tries to combine all arts from circus to theater and music, will be in three cities at once.

“This festival is the fundamental platform and the window on the world for Costa Rican culture,” said Maria Elena Carballo, minister of Cultura, Juventud y Deportes, Thursday.

She added that this is a chance for artists to mix, exchange ideas and profit from the interchange of cultures.

It started out as the brainchild of President Oscar Arias 19 years ago, and was originally called "Festival de Teatro San José por la Paz," as it took place during harder political times, when Arias had just won the Nobel Prize.

This year it will unite 70 groups from 20 countries, with highlights including Chinese opera, Spanish mime artists, Bolivian theater, Venezuelan singers and Argentinian music.

Accordingly with recent diplomatic events, China is the guest of honor, and will be bringing a group from the Ópera de Beijing to perform the traditional high-pitched
music and the Chinese music and acrobatic ensemble that will do acrobatics in Parque la Sabana.

Festival directors said that China's participation was a demonstration of the growing ties between the two countries, but they avoided the question when asked how a festival dedicated to freedom of artistic expression and China's human rights standards could stand side by side.

The capital's biggest green space, la Sabana, will also be hosting events from 11 a.m. until midnight every day in a “Bulevar de las Artes.”

This new innovation is a passage that winds through Sabana Park hosting artesanias from Central America and Pakistan, a Russian pavilion where workshops for traditional arts will take place, national artists, installations about environmental themes, sculpture and various other interactive projects. Three stages will be set up, one for books, one for music and the other for artists.

Directors said they intend to leave Sabana park in good condition by installing recycling facilities.

All of San José's major theaters, such as the Teatro Nacional, Teatro Melico Salazar and Teatro de la Danza will be involved. Acts will move between the three participating cities, using the Teatro Municipal and Casa de la Cultura in Alajuela and the Casa de la Cultura in Puntarenas.

Spain and Latin America provide most of the acts. Some of these include: “Retouramont,” a French dance group, Flamenco group “Antonio El Pipa,” “Timbre 4” from Argentina and “Ciertos Habitantes,” an outgoing theater group that includes a horse among its numbers.
The festival is supported by Banco Nacional, and more information on program details will be available shortly at

Another abandoned boat filled with cocaine turns up in Quepos area
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Agents found another abandoned motor boat full of drugs, said judicial officials. The boat contained 1,800 kilograms (3,968 pounds) of cocaine, and agents located it Wednesday near Quepos, said a spokeswoman from the Judicial Investigation Organization. 

Agents conducted a search for suspects in the surrounding
areas, but turned up no one, said the judicial spokeswoman. The cocaine was packaged, taped and covered in rubber bags, said the spokeswoman.

Coast guard officers in Penshurst, Límón, found a similar type of abandoned boat in January which contained 300 kilograms (660 pounds) of cocaine. No one was detained in either case and both boats appeared to suffer mechanical problems, according to the security ministry. 

'Cultural creatives' are those who are part of the solution
There is another petty scamster loose in San Jose.  I’ll call him Fred.  He a young man of 46 (“I don’t look 46, do I?”)  with dark longish straight hair that falls over his face. He is rather scruffy looking and very loquacious.  He claims to be a butcher from Florida,

He is one step up from the fellow who was “robbed at the Coca Cola.” Fred probably will not accost you at the Coca-Cola or a bus stop. He hangs out in casinos, casinos a considerable distance from the hostel near the Holiday Inn where he is supposedly staying.  (Or maybe he has already covered the casinos close by).  For a tourist, his Spanish is surprisingly colloquial.

According to Fred, three transvestites in Parque Morazán mugged him. They took everything, his laptop, his passport and the $2,000 he was carrying.

Fred’s prey seems to be gullible and sympathetic women with white hair who just happen to have the same name as his mother.  He will not accept a handout so that at least he can eat, or find a bed in a hostel.  He would rather “borrow” a sum larger than the gift and pay you back the next day once he has his new passport and get his money that his brother has already sent to Western Union.  I do hope this is useful information for some of you.

But the world is not lost to the likes of Fred. Thanks to a Web site address I received from my friend, Darrylle, I now know that the number of “good guys” is growing.  And probably many of them are settling in Costa Rica.  They are, what Wisdom University’s Institute for the Emerging Culture is calling cultural creatives.  Not a very grammatically correct name for a university to come up with, but it’ll do. 

Cultural creatives come from many different countries, including most European countries, Japan and the U.S. The new thinking that marks them began to emerge after World War II with the social and consciousness movements of the time.  Movements like the struggle for civil rights, concern about the environmental, women’s issues, social justice, new spirituality, alternative health and peace as a way of life.  They tend to “view the world from the perspective of holistic systems”  to quote the
Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

article I read.  To again quote the article that in turn quotes Einstein: “you cannot solve a problem with the same consciousness that created the problem.”

I think this new consciousness got its start with John Kennedy and his idea of a Peace Corps and all that it entailed.  Their intent was not to go to other countries in order to show their military how to fight.  It was to help the people live better.  In the process, they were changed because they discovered there was much to be learned from the people they worked with. 

I also think that many cultural creatives have chosen to live in Costa Rica because they feel that this little country is sympathetic to their value system. 

This does not mean that Costa Rica does not have its problems. We have crime, greed, corruption, overdevlopment, and poverty — and even scamsters, big and small.  But it is estimated that about 30 percent of U.S. citizens are cultural creatives. In Europe the percentage is even higher.  The researchers are branching out to study other countries,

I wish they would include Costa Rica.  They would find people who are planting trees, recycling all sorts of things, staffing the Peace Center just off 8th Avenue, helping women to start cooperatives, growing crops organically and treating what ails us, holistically, even spiritually.   I am talking about Ticos as well as expats. 

Soon, who knows, maybe there won’t be room for the likes of Fred.

If you are interested in more information, you can Google Wisdom University.

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As many as 7 Cuban soccer players defect after Florida game
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

As many as seven members of a Cuban national soccer team are reported to have defected in the United States shortly after playing a match in the U.S. state of Florida.

Five of the players said they abandoned their team at a hotel in Tampa Tuesday night and plan to seek political asylum in the United States. The coach and teammates from Cuba's under-23 team said the five disappeared shortly after playing a qualification match for the upcoming summer Olympics in Beijing.

The Miami Herald online publication has reported two more Cuban players defected Wednesday, bringing the total to seven. The paper says its information comes from sources close to the players.

The five players who deserted the squad Tuesday, told U.S. media they hope to establish themselves in the country and play professional soccer.
Groups such as the Cuban American National Foundation in Miami often seek to help Cuban performers and doctors to defect while they are on missions outside the country.

The group's human rights director, Omar Lopez Montenegro, says they reached out to the Cuban soccer team during the trip but have not contacted the five.

He said many take the decision to defect to expand the opportunities for their career and their families.

"When you are an athlete or a performer in Cuba, you are kind of a slave to the Cuban government. For example, athletes cannot negotiate their contracts," he said.

Last December, a group of Cuban ballet dancers defected during a trip to Mexico, and a top Cuban television personality sought asylum after a visit to Canada. All of them are now pursuing their careers in Miami. U.S. law allows for Cuban immigrants who arrive on U.S. soil to apply for residency after living in the country for one year.

High court in Brazil agrees to let Colombian trafficking suspect to be extradited
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Brazil's supreme court has authorized the extradition of suspected Colombian drug lord Juan Carlos Ramírez Abadia to the United States to face drug trafficking and murder charges.

The high court voted unanimously Thursday in favor of the extradition, but Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva will have the final say on whether Ramírez Abadia will be sent to the U.S.

Brazilian officials have said that for the extradition to go ahead, the United States must promise that if Ramírez
Abadia is convicted, he will not serve more than 30 years in prison. That is the maximum sentence allowed under Brazilian law.

Known as Chupeta (Lollipop), Ramírez Abadia was arrested last August in Sao Paulo. He is accused of running Colombia's Norte del Valle drug cartel in the 1990s.

Prosecutors say the cartel shipped about $10 billion worth of cocaine to the United States and ordered the killings of police and informants in both the U.S. and Colombia.
Ramírez Abadia had previously been indicted on federal drug trafficking charges in Colorado in 1994 and in New York in 1995 and 2004.

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Concrete bridge beams, each weighing 120 tons, await installation over the Río Paquita between Quepos and Parrita.
bridge girders
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Río Paquita bridge work involves moving gigantic beams
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Bridge builders north of Quepos are swinging giant 120-ton concrete beams into place today as another step in spanning the Río Paquita.

The beams will be the substructure on which concrete is poured for the floor of the new bridge. The Ministerio de Obras Públicas y Transportes said workers expect to have this bridge on the Costanera Sur and four others finished by July. The idea is to build a modern highway between Quepos and Dominical and also to improve the route south
so that vehicles do not have to pass through the Central Valley on the Interamericana.
Other bridges are over the rios Portalón, Matapalo, Parrita and Naranjo. All are being built with the technology that is a first for Costa Rica.

The five beams being installed today are each 115 meters in length, about 374 feet. They are each in two sections. They substitute for the usual metal.

Transport officials also are in the process of preparing a bid process for bridges over the rios Hatillo Nuevo and Hatillo Viejo north of Dominical.

They expect those jobs to be done next year along with widening the exiting bridge over the Río Savegre.

A.M. Costa Rica
users guide

This is a brief users guide to A.M. Costa Rica.

Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


Five classified pages are updated daily. Employment listings are free, as are listings for accommodations wanted, articles for sale and articles wanted. The tourism page and the real estate sales and real estate rentals are updated daily.

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A.M. Costa Rica makes its monthly statistics available to advertisers and readers. It is HERE! 

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Both the main telephone number and the editor's e-mail address are listed on the front page near the date.

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Directions to our office and other data, like bank account numbers are on the about us page.

EU firm takes new direction
with Internet searches

By Information and Communication
Technologies Results

Internet searching is something of an art form. The spaghetti-like tangle of documents and fragments resulting from what a user thought were perfectly cogent keyword searches make the web a forbidding place. European researchers are developing a better way to publish, link and find information using a “web of entities.”

That the word “Google” has entered the vocabulary with such ease is testament to the powerful yet complex “web of documents” that is the internet. If a user wants the number of a nearby restaurant but can’t remember its name, he or she enters keywords and thousands of results are displayed.

In some ways, the Internet’s success threatens to undermine its ultimate utility unless a better way to structure the information is developed. This is where Okkam enters the picture.

The idea behind the EU-funded Okkam project is to unlock the full potential of the semantic web, helping people and machines to find, share and integrate information more easily. It borrows from "Ockham’s razor," a principle named after 14th-century logician William of Ockham that assumes the simplest solution is the best. “Entities should not be multiplied beyond necessity,” it states.

With Okkam, the main "objects" being scanned are no longer documents that just happen to contain certain keywords, but "entities," such as people, locations, organizations or events, explains Paolo Bouquet of Trento University and Okkam’s spiritual leader.

The core Okkam infrastructure will store and make available for reuse so-called “global identifiers” which can be applied to and used by anyone or anything across formats and applications.

Project partner SAP, the enterprise software giant, is testing how Okkam can help in managing information on its public web portals. Other Okkam partners, the scientific publisher Elsevier and ANSA, Italy’s leading news agency, are defining the authoring environment for scholarly and news content, respectively.

“One of the biggest risks we face,” Bouquet said, is people thinking the identifiers are a controlling device, a "Big Brother" scenario. Far from it, the information that  an Okkam user gathers is the bare minimum to improve Web searches. So a user can quickly discern, for example, whether "Paris" is the capital of France or a bistro in Boston, and whether it’s a web-page or an obscure mention in a Voltaire manuscript.”

Although very early days for the project, the plan by the end of 2008 is to have a solid starter-base of 1 million "entities," with a further million every year for the duration of the 30-month project.

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